CAASD research

Cracking the pitch code in music and language: Insights from congenital amusia and autism spectrum disorders

ERC-2015-StG-678733-CAASD, 2016-2022, European Research Council, €1,488,814

Our CAASD project aims to investigate the underlying mechanisms of pitch processing in language and music through comparative studies of two neurodevelopmental conditions: congenital amusia (CA) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The two conditions demonstrate intriguing differences in music, language, emotion, pitch, memory, and cognitive processing that provide us with a unique opportunity to examine the underlying mechanisms of music and language processing.

In particular, our project aims at constructing a unified account of pitch processing in music and language through systematic studies of the behavioural and neural bases of musical, linguistic, and emotional pitch processing in Mandarin-speaking individuals with and without CA and ASD, in comparison with English-speaking individuals with and without CA/ASD.

We will address the following three specific aims using behavioural, electroencephalography (EEG), and neuro-cognitive methods.

Aim 1: To elucidate the differences in speech, music, and emotional processing in CA and ASD, and how and to what extent pitch processing and cognitive abilities impact these differences.
Aim 2: To pinpoint the neurophysiological origins of differences in speech and musical processing in CA and ASD.
Aim 3: To determine the impact of language background (Mandarin versus English) on communicative abilities of ASD individuals.
Our research will not only help reveal the underlying mechanisms of the two defining aspects of human cognition, music and language, but also form a laboratory for testing key hypotheses about the bio-behavioural characteristics of music and language processing.